Diving in Curaçao
Among the more striking features of Curacao's underwater landscapes are the colors. On slopes facing blue water, the familiar umbers and greens of hard coral colonies are overshadowed by sprays of yellow and purple tube sponge, along with brilliant orange elephant ears, red sea whips and stands of black coral. Adding to the show is an array of vividly patterned tropical fish, including blue angelfish, green morays, stoplight parrotfish, yellowtail grouper, blue tangs and swirling schools of Creole wrasse.
Vibrant seascapes aren't the only attraction, as the majority of Curacao's more than 70 dives sites lie within a stone’s throw of the coast, and are sheltered by the island's shape, which blocks easterly trade winds and swells to create calm conditions along the southern and western shores. The underwater landscape follows predictable contours that begin with a shallow, narrow coastal ledge which transitions to slopes that drop to 120 to 200 feet before plunging to ocean depths. These slopes tend to be more gradual on the island's western end and become steeper moving east, to the point where they become near vertical and undercut. The island's eastern end lies within the Curacao Marine Park, which is a no-touch, no-take zone. Western waters exhibit equally healthy coral growth and fish life, thanks to the use of moorings and an emphasis on low-impact diving practices. There is little rainfall and no rivers so near-shore reefs usually have excellent visibility. Shallow reefs are dominated by fields of star, brain and pillar corals punctuated by a variety of soft corals such as sea whips and sea rods.
There are a number of sites that can be accessed from shore, including house reefs at a number of resort properties. Access to other shore diving sites around the island will require a rental car and local knowledge. Dive boats depart from resorts scattered along the western end of the island, and from a more centralized location near the Curacao Sea Aquarium. Rides from dock to site are usually less than 15 minutes, with the exception of some sites far to the east. Weather permitting, operators may also run day trips to the uninhabited island of Klein Curacao, which lies seven miles to the east across open water.
One of Curacao's signature dive sites is the wreck of the Superior Producer. This 240-foot freighter went down in 1977 shortly after leaving the port of Willemstad. Today, the wreck sits upright at a depth of 100 feet, with superstructure intact and rising to 70 feet. From stem to stern, the steel skeleton has become a biosphere of corals, sponges and small fish. Orange cup corals dominate, and a camera strobe or dive light will reveal an explosion of vibrant orange and red colors, interlaced with splashes of deep yellow. Complementing the scene are schools of blackbar soldierfish and snappers that swim in the wreck's interior.
Another of Curacao's international-known dive sites is Mushroom Forest, home to unique star coral formations that are tree-sized and fungoid-shaped. Sponges and boring clams have gnawed at the coral heads for decades, leaving clusters resembling gigantic lepiota mushrooms, their dusky brown and green "caps" overlapping in mounds like disorganized beach umbrellas. Dives at this site are often followed by a second dive or a snorkeling exploration of a nearby sea cave known as the Blue Room, where shadows and sunlight play off schools of silversides and glassy eyed sweepers.
Other popular sites near the island's west end include Watamulao and Hell's Corner, which are known for abundant growths of sponges, anemones and gorgonians, plus more frequent sightings of sharks, barracuda and turtles. At the opposite end of the island, there are more than 15 excellent sites near East Point where steep drop-offs begin 40 to 50 feet from the surface and just yards from shore. Popular sites include Ship Wreck Point and Beacon Point, which start with a narrow reef flat that drops suddenly to depths of several hundred feet. Near-vertical contours are overgrown with orange elephant ear sponges, dense growths of giant split-pore sea rods, and devil's sea whips, which look like long, slender serpents rising from the corals.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
A valid passport is required for U.S. Citizens with at least one blank page for passport entry stamp. No visa is required for entry.
EXIT REQUIREMENTS: There is a departure tax of $39(US) per person, which should be included in your International Airline Ticket taxes. If you are travelling to another island from Curacao, inter-island domestic departure taxes apply and should be included in your airline ticket
Vaccinations are not required for entry into Curaçao. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at www.cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
Blessed as one of the best natural harbors in the southern Caribbean, Curacao has long been a regional crossroads not only for goods, but also for people. This has resulted in a cultural fusion that includes more than 40 ethnic groups, each enriching the mix. Though Dutch is the official language, English is widely spoken and many islanders converse in Papiamentu, a dialect created from mixing of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and several African languages. The capital city of Willemstad is one of the oldest settlements in the Caribbean, dating back to the Dutch capture of the island from the Spanish in the early 17th century. Thanks to the well-protected harbor of St. Anna Bay, the town quickly grew into a busy trading port, and the seat of government for the Netherland Antilles. Today, most of the original colonial-era architecture survives, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest part of the city, known as the Punda district, has always been Willemstad’s main shopping area. Here, pedestrian-only streets and narrow alleys create a picturesque atmosphere, full of life and color. Unique boutiques offer a diverse selection of European clothing, French perfumes, Japanese electronics, Irish crystal, English china, fine Italian leathers and Chinese embroidery, while sidewalk cafes serve up a tasty mix of island favorites and international flavors. Noteworthy landmarks include Fort Amsterdam, the Mikve Israel- Emanuel synagogue, which is the oldest in the western hemisphere and the Queen Emma floating bridge, a pontoon bridge. The Museum Kura Hulanda focuses on the slave trade, while the Maritime Museum recounts the islands nautical traditions. No visit is complete without a stop off at the floating market, where a colorful array of fruits and vegetables make their way from the nearby shores of Venezuela aboard small island trading vessels.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in Curaçao is 127/120 volts at 50 cycles and they use 2 prong plugs, so most appliances made in the USA will work well and should not require an adapter.
Curaçao's country code is 5999 with a 7 digit local phone number following the country code. UTS and CT are a few of the local companies providing phone and internet service. Check with your provider to see what plans are available or you will be subject to roaming charges. Many hotels and restaurants offer WiFi
The water quality from the tap is safe to drink according to the ADC (Analytic Diagnostic Center). Bottled water is also readily available for purchase.
Language & Currency
Dutch is the official language, while Papiamentu is the most commonly spoken language. English and Spanish are all widely spoken and understood. Papiamentu is a form of Creole indigenous particularly to Bonaire, Curaçao, and Aruba, where it is considered the national language. You'll sound like a pro if you say 'Bon Dia' (Good Morning) or "Danki" (Thank you)to the locals.
The local currency is the Antillean guilder, abbreviated as Nafl. or ANG (also called the florin.) The exchange rate is set at ANG 1.79 to USD $1. Credit cards are often a ccepted, so exchanging money is not necessary. ATM's are available for withdrawls in USD or local currency
Curaçao is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Curaçao is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
Curaçao is an island located in the Southern Caribbean Sea. Curacao is 42 miles east of Aruba, 30 miles west of Bonaire and approximately 40 miles north of South Americ. The island of Curacao is 37 miles long and 8 miles wide with an area of 171 square miles. The population of Curaçao is 158,635 (2016).